By: Jesse Donathan
On Saturday, September 7, 2019 UFC 242 is slated to go take place at The Arena in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates on ESPN + pay-per-view (PPV) with the main event featuring a UFC lightweight unification bout between the UFC Lightweight Champion Khabib Nurmagomedov (27-0, 8 KOs) and the UFC Lightweight Interim Champion Dustin Poirier (25-5, 12 KOs). This is among the most anticipated main events of the year and one that may have superfight implications on the line with UFC legend Georges St. Pierre according to Nurmagomedov’s manager Ali Abdelaziz.
This is controversial and problematic information for former Interim Champion Tony Ferguson and his legions of fans, many of whom believe “El Cucuy” to be the rightful number one contender and next in line for the UFC lightweight throne. Stripped of his interim title by the UFC back in 2018, Ferguson never actually lost his belt in the Octagon and has been left on the outside looking in ever since.
Though there is some hope for Tony Ferguson fans, with UFC President Dana White claiming he is next in line should he prove to be ready however contradictory the two separate, but credible reports may appear to be in conjunction with one another.
The current Interim Champion Dustin Poirier is a game fighter, not afraid to stand in the pocket and trade with his opponents, he can dish it out just as well as he can take it. Poirier possesses an effective left hand for an orthodox fighter and a devastating leg kick-based attack, both of which we can expect to see this weekend on full display against the Dagestani champion. Poirier trains out of American Top Team (ATT) in Coconut, Florida and has some of the best coach’s in the game today. The results of which are obvious in the Octagon; Dustin Poirier is an outstanding kickboxer who is not to be taken lightly on the feet.
Poirier would be best suited to remain elusive in the cage, floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee in an effort to keep Nurmagomedov from closing the distance where he does his best work. Speed, footwork and avoiding certain key positions in the fight where Nurmagomedov shines are crucial in effectively game planning to defeat the undefeated champion.
“Look, if you can keep your back off the fence, you are very likely to not be taken down by Khabib,” explained ESPN MMA analyst and former UFC middleweight contender Chael Sonnen’s in his September 3, 2019 Bad Guy Inc. YouTube video titled, “INTANGIBLES: Khabib Nurmagomedov vs Dustin Poirier.”
In critiquing the main event fighters ahead of UFC 242, in Sonnen’s view of Nurmagomedov, “Okay, he’s not Georges St. Pierre, where he is going to come across the ring, two steps later hit you with a flash double that you never saw coming and run your ass down. Khabib is a little bit more methodical, he gets his hands and pushes you into the fence. He’s got some tricks, he’s got some step overs, behind the knee’s, ways to pull you off the fence, ways to get you down. “
“And I can tell you as a guy who lived on ground and pound, who trained with Randy Couture, and Randy Couture and Mark Coleman are the two guys who coined the phrase, literally, of ground and pound, who had the best training in the world, Khabib is doing stuff on top that I have never even seen shown. I have never even seen it in competition or practice until I saw Khabib doing it,” explained Sonnen.
That is high praise coming from “The Bad Guy,” who famously beat the breaks off UFC legend Anderson Silva for approximately 23 minutes before succumbing to a come from behind Triangle Armbar submission hold from Silva at 3:10 in the fifth and final championship round that forced Sonnen to tap.
The only fighter in the world to have stepped into the cage with Anderson Silva, Fedor Emelianenko and Jon Jones, three fighters widely considered the best to have ever competed in the sport of mixed martial arts; Sonnen fought a murderer’s row of competition throughout his career that his overall record simply does not accurately do justice in reflecting his true overall skillset and position in the hierarchy of all-time greats. For Sonnen to sing such high praise of Nurmagomedov is an indication of just what kind of uphill battle Poirier faces this weekend in dealing with a fighter nobody thus far has been able to defeat, though Gleison Tibau did give Khabib a run for his money in a widely disputed controversial decision victory that is likely not soon to be forgotten.
If Poirier did not train extensively in takedown defense and dealing with the absolute worse case scenarios on the ground with Nurmagomedov in the lead up to this fight then I would be very surprised, because there is a high probability that is exactly where Poirier is going to find himself come Saturday night, perhaps for a significant amount of time at that.
There are opportunities here for Poirier to submit Nurmagomedov, who has a tendency to lead with his head up, neck exposed and a propensity to sit in top position with his arms prime for the taking from a competent Jiu-jitsu practitioner. Though if Poirier is unable to stop Nurmagomedov from taking him down and immobilizing his base with Khabib’s patented leg ties it’s going to be a long night for the American Top Team representative.
Historically, Nurmagomedov has struggled to make the 155-pound lightweight limit which is an indication that Khabib is a large framed lightweight who is going to enjoy a size and strength advantage in the evenings main event. Coming off a long long lay-off due to a suspension stemming from a post-fight brawl at UFC 229, Nurmagomedov is dominant wrestler in the Octagon who smashes opponents with a relentlessly high pace. If the past is any indication of the future, Poirier is going to have his work cut out for him this weekend if he hopes to unify the belts and become the divisions undisputed UFC lightweight champion.
The betting man is going to take Nurmagomedov in this fight for these reasons alone, but Poirier is a game stand up fighter who is not afraid to step into the pocket to create the opportunities necessary to win the fight. Its going to be do or die Saturday night in a classic striker versus wrestler matchup with a potential superfight looming on the horizon with former two-division champion Georges St. Pierre for who is no doubt looking to make history as the UFC’s first three division champion. There is a lot riding on the line Saturday night, tune into UFC 242 on ESPN+ for all the action and live results.